Forums to address school redistricting in ManchesterBy PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader
March 16. 2017 12:50AM
MANCHESTER — School officials have scheduled seven forums over the next two weeks to discuss “phase one” of redistricting efforts in Manchester.
The forums, which kick off next Wednesday, March 22, at Bakersville Elementary School at 6:30 p.m., are being held only at schools affected by the initial actions being taken as part of phase one.
Leslie Want, chairman of the Special Committee on Redistricting and school board member from Ward 4, said details of phase one would not be revealed until that first forum. She declined to discuss specifics of the proposal with the New Hampshire Union Leader prior to the forum, because the plans are not “set in stone” at this time.
“Nothing has been approved by the full board,” said Want. “We want to go out and discuss the plans with the schools, take feedback from the parents, then bring it forward to the board.”
In addition to the March 22 event at Bakersville, additional forums are scheduled for Thursday, March 23, from 5-6 p.m. at McDonough Elementary School and from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at Smythe Road Elementary School; Wednesday, March 29, from 5-6 p.m. at Southside Middle School and 6:30-7:30 p.m. at McLaughlin Middle School; and Thursday, March 30, from 5-6 p.m. at the Middle School at Parkside and 6:30-7:30 p.m. at Hillside Middle School.
Efforts to draw up a redistricting plan for city schools were put on hold last September, as the search for a new superintendent of schools played out in Manchester. When Dr. Bolgen Vargas was hired, one of the tasks assigned to him by school board members was to review enrollment and space utilization issues at city schools.
Prior to voting to put discussions on hold, redistricting committee members were focusing talks around four redistricting plans: “The Mayor’s Plan,” developed by Mayor Ted Gatsas, proposed moving fifth-graders to the middle schools and eighth-graders to the high schools, freeing up about 20 classrooms citywide; “The 2007 Plan,” which would create pre-K through grade three primary elementary schools, with Parkside becoming an upper elementary school for grades four through six; The “Junior STEAM Program at West Plan” recommended making all four middle schools grades five to eight, leaving 42 elementary classrooms available citywide for use in redistricting; and a plan put forth by former Superintendent of Schoools Dr. Debra Livingston that called for the construction of a $5.5 million addition to the Jewett Street School for the city’s pre-kindergarten students, followed by construction of a new elementary school in the northern section of Ward 12.